Alfalfa growers who bought Roundup Ready seed but can’t plant it need to contact their seed dealers about replacing it with conventional varieties or getting refunds, says a Monsanto spokesman. It seems likely that full refunds will be offered to growers who don’t want to switch to conventional alfalfa, but Andrew Burchett can only confirm that Monsanto’s technology fee will be returned. Most of the major alfalfa seed companies sell Roundup Ready varieties, and each has its own return policy, says Burchett. Supplies of conventional seed likely will vary among companies, too, he adds.
Planting Roundup Ready alfalfa will be illegal after this Friday as per a March 12 preliminary injunction in the U.S. District Court for the District of Northern California. The injunction came in response to a lawsuit claiming USDA acted illegally when it deregulated Roundup Ready alfalfa in 2005 without first preparing an environmental impact statement. The court order prohibits the sale and planting of the transgenic alfalfa, but states that growers who bought seed before March 12 can plant it provided it’s in the ground by March 30.
The judge in the case is scheduled to hear oral arguments April 27 on whether to make the injunction permanent. If he lifts the injunction, Roundup Ready alfalfa could be available in time for late summer and fall seedings. If he makes it permanent, the seed will be off limits for at least two years while USDA does an environmental impact study.
Don’t keep Roundup Ready seed betting that the injunction will be lifted, Burchett advises growers. “We’re not recommending that anyone hang on to the seed,” he says. “We want to show everyone involved that we can do a good job of accounting for the seed that is out there. So there is an effort by the seed companies to secure seed that isn’t planted by March 30.”
Monsanto and Forage Genetics International, the company that developed the first Roundup Ready alfalfa varieties, have been granted intervener status in the court case. Both submitted briefs last week, and representatives from the two companies will be in the courtroom on April 27.
“We’re going to do everything we think is appropriate to defend growers’ right to choose this technology,” says Burchett. “Our goal is to restore that choice for farmers.”